Amid cries from Republicans that DirecTV is censoring conservative media by “de-platforming” Newsmax, the satellite provider announced on Thursday that it has added another fledgling right-wing network to its roster: The First, whose hosts include disgraced Fox News star Bill O’Reilly.
To add insult to injury to Newsmax, The First will reside on the same DirecTV channel that Newsmax was just booted from this week.
According to DirecTV, their multi-year deal with The First—which launched in late 2019 as a digital network available on over-the-top (OTT) platforms—will not feature any “extra fees” and will allow the conservative outlet to “remain a free channel” available to DirecTV customers. The First will continue to retain a free stream on its website and other services. (This appears to be similar to the deal Newsmax rejected this month.)
Among the programs featured on The First are The Dana Show, hosted by former NRA flack and firebrand Dana Loesch; No Spin News, the podcast hosted by O’Reilly after his Fox News ouster; a primetime show, titled The Liz Wheeler Show, hosted by ex-OAN anchor Liz Wheeler; and a program helmed by right-wing radio host Jesse Kelly.
“DIRECTV values different viewpoints and perspectives and will always work to preserve expansive choice among a wide variety of entertainment and information services to appeal to the unique tastes and interests of our diverse customer base,” said Rob Thun, the chief content officer at DirecTV. “As we’ve successfully done with other emerging channels, we look forward to helping The First continue to expand its audience reach, while constantly ensuring that our customers receive a strong value.”
In the pay-TV carrier’s press release trumpeting the deal, the company noted that “DIRECTV’s launch marks another step forward in an ongoing DIRECTV strategy to integrate leading streaming content alongside its more traditional linear channels.” They also added that they launched Fox News’ streaming service Fox Nation on their subscription video-on-demand service last year, and continue to offer 60-day free trials to new and existing customers.
The First’s chief executive officer Christopher Balfe praised DirecTV for giving the network its first cable home. (The network had initially launched in October 2019 on Pluto TV, an OTT platform offered by Paramount.)
“DIRECTV clearly recognizes the importance of offering a wide array of views and perspectives to their customers across the U.S., and we’re thrilled The First is now among them since we reach conservatives who aren’t beholden to any one party’s talking points,” Balfe said. “We give rise to voices who are passionate about American values yet too often ignored, and now have a unique opportunity to broaden our reach without saddling DIRECTV and its customers with any added financial demands.”
On Thursday afternoon, Newsmax fumed in a statement about DirecTV’s move to replace it: “While we are glad AT&T DirecTV is adding a conservative commentary channel, it is a pathetic attempt to deal with millions of angry viewers who still want NEWSMAX for our top-rated shows, personalities, and in-depth news coverage. You can’t replace a Cadillac with a Honda.”
The statement continued, “The facts remain: DirecTV dropped two of the most popular conservative channels in the past year, replacing them with a channel that has no rating—while still carrying over 20 liberal-leaning news channels. In our negotiations DirecTV made clear that despite NEWSMAX being the #4 cable news channel in America, they never would pay us any license fee while paying all 22 liberal news channels. This was a discriminatory act for one goal: to censor us.”
DirecTV—which is owned jointly by AT&T and TPG Capital—pulled Newsmax from its channel lineup at midnight on Wednesday after negotiations stalled on a new deal between the two parties. The pay-TV provider balked at Newsmax’s demands for additional license fees to air the station, noting that the pro-Trump channel currently streams its on-air content for free on various platforms and its own app.
“On multiple occasions, we made it clear to Newsmax that we wanted to continue to offer the network, but ultimately Newsmax’s demands for rate increases would have led to significantly higher costs that we would have to pass on to our broad customer base,” a DirecTV spokesperson told The Daily Beast after Newsmax’s contract expired.
“Anyone, including our customers, can watch the network for free via NewsmaxTV.com, YouTube.com and on multiple streaming platforms like Amazon Fire TV, Roku and Google Play,” the spokesperson added. “We continually evaluate the most relevant programming to provide our customers and expect to fill this available channel with new content.”
Newsmax, which had not been paid carriage fees by DirecTV since launching on the service in 2014, has accused DirecTV of dropping them as part of a concerted effort to silence conservative media—and has enlisted help from Republicans on Capitol Hill to pressure DirecTV to pay them “fair and equitable” fees.
Citing DirecTV’s cancellation of little-watched far-right network One America News last year, House Republicans drafted a letter to the satellite provider last week alleging the company was colluding with Democrats to “de-monetize” right-wing outlets.“If Newsmax is removed from DIRECTV, in less than a year House Republicans will have lost two of the three cable news channels that reach conservative voters on a platform that primarily serves conservative-leaning areas of the country,” the letter said.
Newsmax has also urged its viewers to call lawmakers and demand Congress investigate DirecTV and AT&T for “their discrimination against conservative media.”
DirecTV’s agreement with The First, however, seems to fly in the face of the narrative being spun by Republicans and Newsmax. Especially considering the conservative firebrands that the network currently features on its airwaves.